You're reading the explanation of the relationship between the stories in Four Square Less One, a collection of short stories by Trevor Hopkins (email).

Firstly, the arrangement of the fifteen stories reflects that well-known puzzle. I was amused to discover that this is sometimes known as a Mystic Square.

In this puzzle, fifteen tiles can be slid around in a frame, and the objective is to re-arrange then into the correct pattern: 1 to 15 in order, with the blank square in the bottom right-hand corner. When I was first thinking about these stories, I certainly spent quite a lot of time re-aranging the order to make this interesting pattern.

Four Square less One: grid of stories

The Stories

The four columns in the square represent four different kinds of settings. From left to right, they are:

  • British University and Academia
  • Historical settings, including future histories
  • Bridges, and their construction
  • Amateur (Ham) Radio

Similarly, the four rows represent different topics or subject areas. From top to bottom:

  • Alien creatures and UFOs
  • Magic and the Occult
  • Ghosts and the Supernatural
  • Sustainability and the Green Agenda

So, for example, story 6 - The Desert and the Sea - is at the intersection of History and Magic - which I think summarises the background to the story quite nicely.